PRESS RELEASE: NRC Nuclear agency rejects effort to close dangerous U.S. “Fukushima” reactors; 4 in Illinois

As a courtesy to our friends and colleagues at Beyond Nuclear, we forward the attached press release.  It announces a decision by the

A GE Mark-I reactor containament schematic
A GE Mark-I reactor containment schematic

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal agency charged with protecting the public from the radiation threat from nuclear power plants, to ignore its staff advice and NOT install safety filters on reactors similar in design to those that blew up and melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011.

Illinois has four such reactors (Dresden 2 & 3, 50 miles southwest of Chicago; and Quad Cities 1 & 2 near Cordova on the Mississippi River) of the same design, yet older than their Japanese counterparts.  Two other reactors (LaSalle 1 & 2, 65 miles southwest of Chicago near Starved Rock) are similar in design, but newer.  This anti-safety decision comes at a controversial time for Exelon’s Illinois nuclear reactors, five of which it claims are unprofitable.  Businesses usually try to regain profitability by reducing costs, which in the case of nuclear reactors, could have additional adverse safety implications.

NEIS was a co-petitioner to this NRC docket, and gave testimony twice in the proceeding.  As the release points out, the filter and vent system we advocated has been mandated for these GE reactors in Europe and in Japan, and the NRC staff recommended that their construction would be a cost-effective safety measure.  Yet, the now 4 person Commission rejected this professional advice, and listened to the profit driven arguments of the nuclear industry which opposed these safety installations.

This decision is emblematic of the NRC’s consistent pattern of deferring to the financial interests of the nuclear industry over the legitimate safety concerns of the public.  It has long been known that the NRC is a “captive agency” of the industry it is alleged to be regulating; this and many similar rulings reinforce the public’s perception that “NRC” stands for “not really concerned.”  Perhaps the only thing remarkable about this anti-safety decision is that the Agency stretched out its venal and disingenuous incompetence for four years before announcing its ruling.

Feel free to contact Beyond Nuclear directly for more information.

 

NEWS FROM BEYOND NUCLEARFor immediate release: Friday, January 23, 2015Contact: Paul Gunter, 301.270.2209 (o); 301.523.0201 (cell)
Nuclear agency rejects Beyond Nuclear and 10,000 co-petitioners’effort to  close dangerous U.S. “Fukushima” reactors
 
TAKOMA PARK, MD — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a Beyond Nuclear petition signed by 10,000 members of the U.S. public that called for the agency to suspend the operation of the country’s vulnerable “Fukushima” style nuclear reactors. The emergency enforcement petition asked the NRC to suspend operating licenses at the country’s now 22 remaining General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors identical to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors units 1, 2 and 3 that exploded and melted down following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.The petition was originally filed on April 13, 2011. It took the agency four years of deliberations behind closed doors before issuing its decision, which is published in today’s Federal Register.“We strongly disagree with the NRC’s decision and its claim that it has met each one of the petitioners’ requests,” said PaulGunter, Director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear and who initiated and submitted the petition. “The long recognized public health and safety hazards of these reactors, so vividly and tragically demonstrated by the events at Fukushima, are far from being resolved,” he said.

“We remain concerned that the NRC is not presently capable of effective oversight and enforcement,” Gunter continued. “Under existing NRC provisions, the public has no recourse to appeal the decision or to legally challenge the Mark I design vulnerability or its operational hazards.

“This denial of due process comes in spite of the fact that agency orders and industry corrective actions referenced in dismissing the petition are inadequate half measures that need not be fully implemented for years to come, if ever,” Gunteradded. “In critical safety areas for the Mark I containment vulnerability, the proposed corrective actions credited in the Director’s Decision are not even conceptually finalized or approved by the regulator. Moreover, there are significant agency staff non-concurrences on how to proceed with post-Fukushima action plans,” Gunter concluded.

The NRC’s emergency enforcement petition process itself is recognized by one of its own Administrative Law Judges, Alan S. Rosenthal, as rigged to reject out of hand legitimate public safety concerns. The Additional Opinion of Judge Rosenthalconcluded that “at least where truly substantive relief is being sought (i.e., some affirmative administrative action taken with respect to the licensee or license), there should be no room for a belief on the requester’s part that the pursuit of such a course is either being encouraged by Commission officialdom or has a fair chance of success.”

Ironically, while the U.S. NRC seeks to fend off legitimate concerns to keep these 1960s vintage reactors running as industry cuts safety corners, Japan’s nuclear industry is closing two of its remaining four Mark I reactors while retrofitting others with high capacity radiation filters on a hardened vent system.

A majority vote of the U.S. NRC Commissioners rejected a senior level staff recommendation made by the Japan Lessons Learned Task Force that the Commission order all GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor operators to promptly install hardened containment vents with the same engineered radiation filters as a “cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement.

Beyond Nuclear and others have strongly recommended that the industry be required to afford this retrofit as a minimal safety stopgap while continuing to advocate for the license suspension of the entire Mark I and Mark II fleet.

For more information, see a detailed explanation on the Beyond Nuclear Freeze our Fukushimas web page.

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Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Info@beyondnuclear.orgwww.beyondnuclear.org.

 

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